A group of artists is working on the construction of the first queer museum in Vienna. The idea is well received by the city’s politicians, but the project is not yet on track.
Watches, teeth, coffins – Vienna has its own museum for all of these. But what doesn’t exist is a museum with a focus on queer art and culture. But that is about to change, as a group of queer artists, curators and historians are working to build the first QueerMuseumVienna. “A laboratory, a place where the topic of queerness can be negotiated,” says co-initiator Florian Aschka. The new museum will open its doors in temporary premises in January 2021.
On the way there, however, some things are still open. “And that’s a good thing,” says Aschka. Queer art is to be contextualized by queer curators and a growing collection established in the long term, that is the basic idea. Role models include the Gay Museum in Berlin or the Leslie Lohman Museum of Art in New York. But what is queer art anyway? And what is a queer museum? Questions like these should be constantly discussed anew, according to the claim.
Even the term “queer” itself is not a static construct. Once used as a swear word in the sense of “strange,” “different” for gay and transsexual subculture, those meant by it have long since reclaimed it. Today, queerness is no longer limited to sexual orientation but is a catch-all term for anything that deviates from the norm. “Queer is a way of thinking,” says Hannes Sulzenbacher, curator and co-director of the Center for Queer History QWien, which is also part of the museum project. Queer art, he says, is one that addresses and reflects on the issue of heteronormativity. “And of course, it can also be made by a heterosexual man.”
Art and history
Outside the norm is also what they want to do in their outreach work. “We want to try something that doesn’t have to play by the rules of dusty museums,” Aschka says. Children’s book readings with drag queens, for example. One focus, in particular, should be on the history of the queer community. “Because queer art can only be understood in its historical context,” says Sulzenbacher. The basis for this is a collection of testimonies of gay and lesbian life in Vienna, compiled over 40 years, which can be found in the QWien archive. In addition, a class of the Academy of Fine Arts is currently working on a mediation concept.
As a breeding ground, the new museum in Vienna finds a thoroughly lively queer art scene. Two of its icons, artists Ashley Hans Scheirl and Jakob Lena Knebl, who will represent Austria at the 2021 Venice Art Biennale, will also be patrons of the project. “The city has a global appeal in terms of queerness,” Aschka says. “Especially from Eastern European countries, many people move to Vienna because they appreciate the liberal atmosphere here.” Politicians also support the image of the rainbow city, so adding a queer museum to the museum landscape is a logical step, she says.
Talks with the city
At the moment, the initiators of the Queer Museum are looking for temporary premises for the first exhibition, which is scheduled to start in January 2021. In the long term, however, they would naturally like a fixed location, says Aschka. Queer art should not just get a corner in an existing museum, but a home. For that alone, the necessary funding is needed. Here, Aschka and Sulzenbacher are hoping for the City of Vienna and the federal government.
And the initial signals are quite promising. Both the election platform of the Viennese SPÖ and that of the Greens contain the idea of a queer museum. A conversation with City Councillor for Culture Veronica Kaup-Hasler (SPÖ) is planned for next week. “In cooperation with the queer community and the city government, we are very happy to take on this idea,” her office says. And Martin Margulies, cultural spokesman for the Vienna Greens, also wants to bring the idea into coalition negotiations with the SPÖ.
Queer museums worldwide
Queer museums have existed in some major cities for decades. The Gay Museum Berlin made the beginning in 1985. That same year, the GLBT History Museum San Francisco opened. Also in the 1980s, a gay couple in New York built a queer art collection. Officially recognized by the state, the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, but only in 2011. Since 2012 there is the Museu da Diversidade Sexual in Sao Paulo, since 2015 AMOQA Athens Museum of Queer Arts and since 2016 the QUEERSEUM London.
This article was published in Der Standard. By Johannes Pucher.
This article was translated from German by DeepL (AI translator)